10 Qualities Looked For During Interviews
Q. The other day I felt an interview slipping away from me, when I heard the
interviewer make this statement: "I'm sorry, but we don't have anything right
now that matches your qualifications. You've got a good track record, and we'll
keep your resume in our active files." Since I fit the job requirements exactly,
what else could interviewers be looking for?
A. It's not easy to pinpoint what interviewers are after. You may be confronted
with as many different approaches as there are interviewers. Having said that,
the following list of 10 qualities is what I have followed when I have conducted
interviews, and it's also what I tell my clients to follow.
Look for people with a lot of energy. The race may not always
be to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but when you are preparing to
wager on what you hope will be a winner, that is the way to place your money.
The point is that some people are, quite simply, born with more energy than
others. At an interview, or almost anywhere, they naturally exude vigor,
enthusiasm, and drive. They both want and need to be active, up and doing. You
can sense this quality in a person almost as soon as he/she walks into the room.
It is an innate drive that puts a spring in their step and makes their eyes
sparkle. Put your money on just such a person.
Look for people who channel their energy into their work. Do
not be deceived by people who talk about hard work, and say what a lot of hard
work they do. To the lazy person, everything is hard work, and he/she spends
much or all of their time complaining about it. One candidate who didn't get the
job said in an interview, "I met a few people in my time who were enthusiastic
about hard work, but it was just my luck that all of them happened to be men I
was working for at the time." Solid evidence of an individual whose values may
be embedded with the whole work ethic includes:
- Parents, heroes, or mentors who believed in hard work
- Work-oriented spare-time interests
- Willingness to take a second job
- No concern at all with hours worked-no clockwatching
- High career goals
- Completes anything undertaken
- Paid own way through college
Look for evidence of role-awareness. Candidates who present
themselves for an interview should be aware that today they are onstage. If the
candidate is at all sensitive to the expectations of corporate life, they will
have chosen their costume with care and got the rest of their act together too.
If a candidate arrives in attire more suitable for a golfing outing than a
corporate setting, then you may immediately infer that they lack role-awareness.
And if he/she lacks it on this particular day, you may be sure they will never
Look for inner motivation based on family background. It's not
so much what you have or where you were born that counts, as what you did with
what you had and what you make of your own life. In trying to determine what you
did with what you had, I always subtract what you began with from what you have
now, and look at the difference.
Look for emotional maturity. People grow up three ways:
physically, intellectually, and emotionally. Most executives mature physically
and intellectually, but emotional maturity can never be taken for granted.
Whereas you can see that a person is fully grown physically, and you can check
their college to ensure that they are intellectually sound, badges or
certificates of emotional maturity are unavailable.
Spotting immaturity - and, therefore, also maturity - is difficult. However,
the immature person inevitably possesses two qualities to mislead you: childlike
charm and, as the result of long experience, the capacity to distract attention
from their shortcomings. The immature person is not a good employment risk as a
line manager because, like most children, they are essentially concerned only
with their own immediate gratification and also because he/she tends to see
their employer as a sort of Santa Claus. What they want is to have someone to
look after them just like their parents did for them until they left home at age
Conversely, the best index of maturity is consideration and concern for the
well being of other people. Three excellent clues to an individual's emotional
maturity are these:
Judgment. Have they handled themselves well in their ongoing business
affairs? or have they embarked upon harebrained, get-rich-quick schemes?
Finances. Are they living within their means? Is he/she financially
secure enough to suggest that their personal, financial money-decisions are
being taken with a cool, clear, adult head?
The number of past employers and the manner of their departures from
them. Have they pursued their career in a mature and adult manner?
Particularly, have they job-hopped without realistic consideration for the
future of either their employer or themselves?
Look for someone who can profitably channel his or her
hostilities. You want to hire a person with fire in their belly, of
course, but at the same time you don't want a rebel without a cause. The best
job-seeking candidate can temper their hostilities with tact and in a mature
business like manner. And, if they can't do that, you, as the interviewer may be
in for trouble. So especially watch for evidence of spite unreasonably directed
toward previous employers and associates.
Look for the need to finish a task begun. Evidence of this
delightful condition will be discovered simply by looking for a goal-oriented
individual with a history of completing anything undertaken, as for example;
finishing a college degree, writing an article and getting it published or, best
of all, successfully putting together a sound and progressive business career.
Look for a candidate that wants to do a good job and not just
interested in earning a paycheck. If you hire a mercenary, someone who
believes in your cause only as long as the money is good, then you may be
courting trouble. Such a person usually lacks any inner job motivation, and, as
a result, often harbors a deep resentment of their dependency upon their
employer; in consequence they will be ambivalent to a fault, particularly if
they are well paid.
Look for loyalty to your cause. Loyalty means not that I
agree with everything you say or that I believe you are always right.
Loyalty means that I share a common ideal with you and that, regardless of minor
differences, we fight for it, shoulder-to-shoulder, confident in one another's
good faith, trust, constancy, and affection.
The key to loyalty, whether you're recruiting an executive or making a
friend, is in finding that common ideal, and once again this should stem
from an individuals deepest underlying values. If these values are not in
harmony with those of your cause or the company's cause, then loyalty may be
Look for compatibility. Individuals make up teams, but
compatible individuals make the best teams. Any candidate who is unnecessarily
touchy and thin-skinned at an employment interview will probably be abrasive and
disruptive if he/she joins the team. A get-along, go-along person who also works
hard is a jewel, because their shine attracts people like themselves. Remember
that the opposite is also true; the bad has a strong tendency to drive out the
Guest columnist Joe Hodowanes MPA, SPHR is Career Strategy
Advisor and President of J.M. Wanes & Associates, Tampa, FL 33688.
This article is reprinted with permission.